Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Laramie Project at TLT

Tolerance  is not enough
by Michael Dresdner

Photo by Galen Wicks 
“There are stories we love to tell, and there are stories we have to tell.”

That’s what actor Mark Peterson wrote in lieu of his bio in the playbill for The Laramie Project at Tacoma Little Theatre, and as is often the case with Mark, he aptly summed up just why this play is and should be on the TLT stage. 

The Laramie Project surrounds the murder and torture of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was brutally beaten and left to die tied to a fence outside Laramie in 1998. However, that is only a small part of the very real story this play tells.

The writers, Moises Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theater Project, went to Laramie and conducted hundreds of interviews of the people there. With that they crafted not a slanted piece of propaganda or a shock tale, but rather an astonishingly even-handed revelation of what really happened and how the locals responded in both words and actions. It is that very honesty and lack of bias that makes this play so powerful.

Make no mistake; it is powerful. It’s the sort of theatre that does its job; to bring you to a very real place that you have not been before by taking you inside the minds of those who witnessed reality. For that reason alone it is well worth seeing.

Of course, if you are going to experience this, and you should, thank your lucky stars if you can see it with a cast of this caliber. Director Brie Yost deserves the accolades for that. Her genius began with assembling the ideal cast, then continued as she led them to create true éclat.

Jen Aylsworth, Russ Coffey, Mike Cooper, Rachel Fitzgerald, Marty Mackenzie, Jefri Peters, Mark Peterson, Tiffani Pike, and Jeremy Thompson each took on an average of ten roles apiece, flipping effortlessly between wildly divergent characters. They did it, to an actor, flawlessly. I could endlessly call out exceptional scenes for each and every one of them. Instead, I’ll just say this is as fine an ensemble cast as one can imagine.

What also comes across is the distinct feeling that the cast has bonded with one another well beyond the normal realm of what a production requires. Perhaps because of that, they adroitly become the close-knit Tectonic Theater Project, then become the varied and sundry Laramie denizens, all with gratifying proficiency.

Rounding out the experience was the support of an equally fine production and design staff. Sets are by Lex Gernon, costumes and props by Jeffery Weaver, lighting by Niclas R. Olson, and the stage manager is Bethany Bevier.

Don’t be put off by what sounds like a depressing subject. The Laramie Project is, in spite of its general subject matter, a thoroughly moving theatre experience. Go see it, for this is a show whose seats should be filled every night. Yes, Tacoma Little Theatre deserves your support for making this available, but far more than that, as a living, breathing human, you deserve to experience this sort of emotional fulfillment.

The Laramie Project
June 7 to June 23, 2013
Tacoma Little Theatre

For Alec Clayton's take on this play, make sure you read the review at his blog:

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